Friday, April 17, 2009

A Labor of Love Part 2: Working for the Man

I love my job. I am so thankful that I am able to spend my days painting icons to proclaim the gospel, to teach the faith, and to beautify churches and homes. But sometimes I don't like my job. There is something about doing anything for a living that has a way of taking the joy out of the work. Lately I have been in a bit of a slump when it comes to painting. It is hard to motivate myself to start painting. It is hard to pinpoint why this is the case except that everything I have been painting lately has been a commission. It has been a while since I have painted something just for the joy of painting. It has been a while since I painted a subject of my own choosing based on a prototype I love, just because I feel drawn to it.
I can't express how wonderful it is to be working on this project. And that joy then carries over to my other work. Since I started working on this icon, I haven't gotten less done on my commissions, I have gotten more done. Work goes so much more quickly, so much more effortlessly when it is done joyfully. I wish I could say that each and every icon is a joy because it is the image and likeness of God in His servants that I am depicting. But sadly, I lose sight of that far to often. The daily becomes mundane, and we quickly forget. And this is the state of my spiritual life as a whole. Just when I learn a lesson, just at the point that I think I have my life on track, I depart from God with my mind, and with my heart. And it takes me some time to realize that I have strayed. And once I do realize this, it is hard to even remember which direction to move to get back. But all it really takes is to find a little time to focus on God, to rekindle that joy. As St. James says, "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you."
This project is my way of drawing near to God in some small way. And with every little step, I know that God is running to greet me.


Konstantina said...

Christ is risen!
Hi Matthew, I was wondering about why you have chosen to paint certain parts of your icon last. I had read that the halo should be painted first because it symbolizes (among other things) illumination and is the context (ie. man's illumination) for the form of the saint "coming into being". But you waited until the end. Having read some other posts of yours before I know you are a traditional iconographer and so would love to learn if there was another theory or simply a practical reason for saving the halo for the end.

By the way the icon is spectacular. I love that your still is so byzantine. To me Byzantine icons are the most moving.

Matthew Garrett said...

Indeed He is Risen!

Thank you for your comment, Konstantina. The reason that I wait to do the gold is completely practical. The gold is quite delicate and prone to scratching, and I am not so delicate and prone to scratching the gold. I don't want to get to the end and have a halo that looks terrible.

The other thing is that there is no definitive rule as to when the gold is to be applied. It is often applied first when the iconographer uses the water gilding technique, which would be difficult if not impossible to do around an already painted figure. I don't use the water gilding technique, and even if I did, it would be impossible to do on these icons since they are on canvas. These icons are just small enough that I considered doing them on normal gessoed panels, but they need to be transported nearly 2000 miles and they were just big enough that this would be too difficult to do.